Crisp looking, compact little 2 osc VA unit with a sweet spot which is quite easy to get into. It's hard to explain, but this synth can sound mediocre, almost lacking in power at first, but after a bit of tweaking, it gets into it's groove, what I call it's 'sweet spot', and it begins to sound very juicy and powerful.
The two oscillators each consist of two waveforms with selectable octave, which can be blended together for each osc. Then you blend osc 1 and 2 together, adding ringmod, AM, overdrive, filter FM, noise, and standard filter action. There are *around* 30 waveforms, so quite a bit of a choice, but some of them are a bit samey, and I'm fairly sure a couple are all but duplicates. That aside, with the large palette and plenty of wave mangling options, there is plenty to choose from.
The real power core of this synth is it's seven slot modulation matrix. Here you can add constant values or controller/envelope access to any parameter. This is where you, for example, set osc 2 to play a harmonic interval (there is no knob for it) or perform PWM (wave stretching works on all waveforms). This, combined with the three LFO's, two envelopes and controllers, is what brings the sounds to life.
Consider one patch I made, there are two waveforms, 'combed' together using AM to make a raspy tone. As you move the modulation wheel, a resonant lowpass filter closes, and the two oscillators drift out of tune, one up and one down, creating an 'in and out of focus' type of sweep. I had plenty of slots left over to add octave stretching (so higher notes are slightly sharp) and aftertouch based vibrato... This is the sort of flexibility the matrix affords you.
Since you can do PWM on any wave, you can mix two waves in an oscillator, one several octaves above the other, and perform PWM. Because one cycle of the base wave contains several cycles of the higher wave, and the waveform is stretched from the midpoint and as a whole, you can get a swirling harmonic wave effect which is a good stand-in for sync (it actually sounds like a sync which is both rising and falling at the same time!). PWM on other waves will make similar swirling harmonics or thickening effects, depending on the waveform.
The filter is on the calmer end of the scale, but in a very musical way. Filter FM is the standout feature here - it simply sounds gorgeous, and can add anything from a subtle textured distortion, to full on formant effects, as the FM amount can be a modulation target, and can be sourced from any waveform from the two oscs or the noise section.
GUI-wise, I think it's fine. Silver and blue create a distinctive but mellow visual experience, and everything is neatly laid out, with nice knobs.
Overall, a flexible workhorse for bread+butter sounds and beyond, which takes up little CPU power and rewards your creativity with an easy to hit sonic sweet spot.
FURTHER DOWN THE LINE EDIT:
After a few months with this synth I've noticed that like a lot of VSTI's, it can generate a fair bit of DC offset, especially if you use the Osc Symmetry parameter. I'd recommend using a good highpass filter or DC offset remover directly after it in the signal chain.
I do not have an extensive synth background. I needed something I could use right away, and be able to cover a lot of ground quickly and easily. I think Alpha offers this and more.
The GUI is easy to understand, and is well-designed. The controls all work very well - no glitches that I've found. The preset browser makes it easy to find what you're looking for and quickly audition the included or added-on presets.
I give the sound a 9 only because I thought it could use more "power" at times. This is likely the result of my inexperience. Most of the time the sound is great, and I can get a wide variety of sounds out of this synth.
At first glance, it may seem lacking in features, based on screen shots of other monster synths. What's there, though, allows for a lot of flexibility. After getting familiar with it, there was more to it than I originally thought.
The PDF documentation is clear and thorough, and all controls are explained. The glossary of synth terms is helpful for beginners.
One of the big benefits, especially for me, was the included 750+ presets, so I can immediately hear the breadth of sound possibilities and see how they are constructed. With this many presets, there are bound to be many I will never use, but there are very many I found useful without needing any tweaks, too.
I haven't needed much support, since this is an easy to use product, and it's never misbehaved for me. Any questions I've had, though, have been answered quickly, by Linplug staff, in the Linplug forum here at KVR. Also, the purchasing/download process was quick and trouble-free.
The value for money is easily a 10. For $59, I think I've gotten more than my money's worth. And it's gotten me interested in Linplug's other products.
Alpha has been perfectly stable, as I've already mentioned. I've used both the VST and AU formats within Peak Pro 5, Tracktion 2, Digital Performer 4.6, and a few other hosts with no crashes or glitches.
I guess it's obvious enough by now that I'm happy with Alpha. It's an affordable, workhorse gem of a synth.
Well, I don't often write reviews of products, but this one I just had to...
For just $29, this has to be one of the great VSTi bargains out there. A superbly warm synth that can generate gorgeous pads, cutting lead sounds and punchy basses. And to go with this, one of the clearest interfaces out there.
I'm normally a bit of a no hoper when it comes to programming synth patches, but even I've been able to come up with some great sounds with this baby. Just find an existing patch you like (there are plenty supplied with the synth), keep pressing the "GEN" (randomisation) button until you get a sound you like and then manually tweak it to perfection.
Stability is also good. I'm running Alpha in Sonar 2.0 with the fxpansion VST-DX adapter and I haven't had any problems whatsoever.
And to add yet another thing - you also get some of the best support out there. I had a little problem when I ordered Alpha, so I emailed Peter and he had it fixed within half-an-hour. He's also brilliant at answering questions left for him on his support forum, right here at KvR.
Due to the clear interface and ease of programming, I can wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone from the experienced artist (who'll love its low CPU usage) right down to the absolute beginner (who'll have their own bank of sounds within an hour of purchasing). Add to this full MIDI-learn capability and the incredible modulation matrix (hey, I paid £600-odd quid for a Proteus 2000 with one of those!) and you have a synth that will be one of the mainstays in your VSTi armoury.
So, you might say I'm pretty happy with Alpha - I can see me using it in just about all my projects in the future. And besides, $29 is nothing really, is it? Go on, you know you want to :)